Head of SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk, has announced that human brain implants that can link directly to devices could be a reality within a year.

Neuralink

The implanted brain-computer interface (BCI) that Mr Musk talked about recently to the California Academy of Sciences audience in San Francisco will be known as a ‘Neuralink’.  Mr Musk believes that the operation to insert such an implant could be low risk and as affordable and non-invasive as laser eye surgery and would only require a short visit to a doctor rather than a hospital stay.

Why?

The main reason why Mr Musk has developed the Neuralink implant is as a possible way to counter the threat of Artificial Intelligence (AI) becoming so far ahead of human thinking that it could pose a real threat to the existence of the human species.

Mr Musk believes that although humans now have access to large amounts of information via our devices, limitations such as the speed at which we can type could see us fall behind AI.  The ability to have a near-instantaneous, wireless communication between brain and computer via an implant would, therefore, give humans the chance to keep up with AI and, eventually, merge with AI to create access to superhuman intelligence and allowing a symbiotic relationship with AI.  The implant would, therefore, be a kind of ‘upgrade’ to enable our brains to compete with AI.

Another practical reason for the Neuralink implant and its ability to interface with computers could be to help tackle diseases.  For example, the version one Neuralink is capable of around 10,000 electrodes, which is 1,000 times more than the current FDA-approved systems for helping patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

AI Already Trusted

People are now getting more used to the benefits of AI which has led to increased trust in the technology in recent years.  For example, back in September 2017, research from US CRM and strategic applications company Pegasystems found that 60% of UK people would use more AI if it saved them time and money and that 68% of UK consumers would use software robots for banking services. Many consumers in the survey found that the ‘artificial’ aspect was, in fact, a positive because it meant that there was impartiality.

Chip Implants

The idea of implants to humans with technology is not new.  For example, back in 2018 the UK firm BioTeq revealed that it had already fitted 150 implants to people in the UK (between their thumb and forefinger) to enable them to quickly carry out tasks such as open doors, access offices or start cars with a wave of their hand, and also to store important medical data.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

AI brings many time and money-saving benefits to businesses, which is one of the reasons why, for example, Microsoft is investing $1bn in San Francisco-based company OpenAI (of which Elon Musk was an investor) for its work on artificial general intelligence (AGI). However, the threat of AI becoming too intelligent to the point of endangering its creators is, in fact, a real one.

For the time being, however, there are other concerns for businesses and individuals related to the possible threat of AI.  For example, the threat of how to effectively counter AI cyber-attacks should be a concern to businesses. Also, this month, the SB 1001 bot law comes into effect in California which means that it is now unlawful for a person or entity to use a bot to communicate or interact online with a person in California in order to incentivise a sale or transaction of goods or services or, indeed, as a way to influence votes in an election without disclosing that the communication is via a bot.

AI is, therefore, an evolving area with many possible opportunities and threats, the largest and perhaps most obvious of which has been highlighted by Elon Musk and others who would like to ensure that AI becomes our harmless problem-solving servant rather than our unstoppable master and enemy.